Blacklash is a pivotal example of Clark’s pioneering painting method. It is the artist’s most direct response to the country’s racial politics, painted in the aftermath of the protests in Harlem in 1964 following the murder of 15-year-old James Powell by an off-duty police officer. The title, combining the words “black” and “backlash,” evokes the violence against black people that occurred that summer, violence that is further emphasized by Clark’s use of broad strokes and splattered paint, as well as the bright red and orange colors.
See it on view now in Gallery 291.
Addressing social concerns through abstraction, avant-garde painter Norman Lewis pushed the limits of nonrepresentational art by evoking of the energy of American cities. In Multitudes, he combined gestural mark making and Color Field painting, layering tight and rapid calligraphy atop a soft ground of pulsating color. With a nod to Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself,” the title alludes to the United States’ struggles and potential after World War II.
Multitudes is on view now in Gallery 398.
Ana De Orbegoso’s “new huaco” recalls the complicated past of Peru’s ancient ceramic vessels, asking how Peruvians should now relate to their history. Its mirrored surface allows Peruvian viewers to gaze upon this modern “portrait vessel” and see their own reflection, offering an embodied connection to their ancestors.
See Neo-Huaco #3 on view now in Gallery 136.
In her quilt The Safety Patrol, Butler plays with artistic conventions and expectations, choosing seven children of varying ages as her subject. Set on background fabric with a subtle gray and white floral pattern, it features a tight group of children in brightly colored clothing that gaze out at the viewer. The child in front wears a belt and sash that identify him as part of a school safety patrol, a group of children that protect fellow students and serve as leaders. His presence reminds viewers that children, black children especially, need to be seen, valued, and protected, while the work as a whole offers an imaginative glimpse into the complex and varied lives of youth.
The Safety Patrol is currently on view in Bisa Butler: Portraits.
This figurative sculpture from Burkina Faso seems to evoke a vulture. It is one of only three known expressions of a distinctive style attributed to a Lobi artist whose identity has unfortunately not been recorded. This particular work is remarkable not only due to its large size—rare in Lobi bird figures—but also to the richness of its patina. In their original setting, such sculptures are placed in shrines or used in divination practices where they serve as intermediaries between humans and nature spirits known as thila.
Read more about Bird Figure on our blog.
For Ego Painting, Faith Ringgold borrowed a compositional format from Kuba textile designs of the Democratic Republic of Congo to create a multiplicity of word associations. Part of her Black Light series, through which the artist addressed blackness as both a color and a precarious social identify, Ego Painting features equally dark colors placed directly adjacent to one another, emphasizing their contrast and idiosyncrasy. It is one of the first works by Ringgold to incorporate text in its composition and is the first painting by the artist to enter the museum’s holdings.
See Ego Painting on view now in Gallery 295, and read more on our blog.
Joining another exceptional example decorated by the Chicago Painter that has been in the museum’s collection since 1889, this hydria, or water jar, depicts three women. The subject on the left of this vase examines her face in a mirror, the central figure holds a chest, which may contain such personal effects as jewelry and cosmetics, and the woman on the right holds a large, lobed fruit. An artist active in 5th century BC, the Chicago Painter is so named because the first vase acquired by the museum was the first examples of his work ever identified.
Both works by the Chicago Painter are currently on view in Gallery 151.
In this painting by Domenco Fetti, a Romantic painter who worked in Rome in the wake of Caravaggio, a young woman kneels stooped over a table, resting her head heavily on her hand as though burdened with the weight of the universe. This image, recurrent across centuries, has come to define the iconography of the universally experienced human emotion of melancholy.
It is on view now in Gallery 206.
A cascade of overlapping circles derived from the form of a seated female figure, Étude No. 1 is widely considered to be Georges Vantongerloo’s first abstract painting. Although difficult to discern, a body starts to emerge when the viewer directs their eyes toward the red triangle at bottom. From this sharply pointed toe, legs and torso ascend, rising up along an axis that is also the physical centerline of the painting.
It is on view now in Gallery 393.
One of a very small number of 19th-century professional British female artists, Evelyn Pickering de Morgan rendered this extraordinary work in black pastel and gold paint on brown paper. It depicts an angel who, though bearing death’s scythe, is humble, gentle, and protective. De Morgan’s subject was inspired by, among other things, ancient Greek grave reliefs.
The acquisition of this work adds to our growing collection of Pre-Raphaelite artists and female artists throughout history.
This extraordinary late Renaissance casket reflects a synthesis of Venetian and Islamic design sensibilities, brought together in the years around 1600 by a courtly—or, more likely, a Papal—commission. As early as the mid-19th century, it was theorized that caskets like this were linked to a Papal tradition of bestowing the gift of blessed linens for the baptism of the first-born son of royal families of Catholic Europe, thereby cementing the relationship with the church and various ruling dynasties.
Find this rock glass casket on view in Gallery 205.
Intimately scaled crosses, such as this newly acquired work, were extremely popular devotional objects in 17th-century Spain. This example is exceptional as it is dated and signed by a female artist, María Josefa Sánchez. Very little is known about Sánchez; she was active 1639–49, probably in Castile, and the only works currently attributed to her are four other crucifixes.
The work is currently installed in Gallery 209A. Read more on our blog.
The works that Dutch painter Gerrit van Honthorst created during and after his studies in Rome often feature candlelight or torchlight in night scenes, presenting a gentler, more meditative variation on the dramatic light effects employed by his Italian peers. This painting expands the range and complexity of the Art Institute’s collection of Dutch paintings. Moreover, as a character or head study—called a tronie, in the parlance of the day—it complements our great Rembrandt, Old Man with a Gold Chain (1631).
See A Boy Blowing on a Firebrand in the John L. and Helen Kellogg Gallery 213 alongside other Dutch works. Read more about this work on our blog.
One of Duchamp’s iconic readymades—an ordinary object transformed into art by the artist’s selection of it—this version of Bottle Rack was a prized possession of the painter Robert Rauschenberg before coming in to the Art Institute’s collection.
Find this transformative piece of modern art in Gallery 395.
This tapestry by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian artist best known for his landscape designs, is one of a pair by the artist acquired in fall 2017. Burle Marx had a wide-ranging artistic career, encompassing painting, sculpture, photography, printed fabrics, and ceramic tiles. Like his gardens, his tapestries feature a combination of colors, forms, and textures carefully arranged to highlight contrasts and produce an overall sense of balance and harmony.
This tapestry was featured in the exhibition Movement and Music: Rhythm in Textile Design.
This recent acquisition is a superb example of a well-known genre of helmet mask of the Makonde people. It is characterized by the realistic imitation of incised angular facial scarification marks, carved renderings of chipped teeth, and insertion of real human hair in asymmetrical patterns on the mask’s skull.
Find it in Gallery 137.
This depiction of Saint Jerome, hailing from the Flemish city and trade center of Antwerp, shows him as both a scholar and a penitent. The exaggerated angle of his head, the gesture of his open hand, the thin application of paint, and the nervous contours all belong to the Master of the Lille Adoration’s signature style.
Find this Old Master work in Gallery 207.
This sculpture represents the 13th petal from Yoko Ono’s installation SKYLANDING, a 12-petal lotus in Chicago’s Jackson Park that rises from the ashes of the Phoenix Pavilion. In contrast to the smooth petals of SKYLANDING, MENDED PETAL has visible seams of repair, symbolically commemorating the ground-healing ceremony held by the artist in June 2015 through which she prepared the site of the lost Phoenix Pavilion for her new work.
Find MENDED PETAL in Pritzker Garden.
The five vessels in this set would have been the focus of either Buddhist or Confucian spiritual ceremonies. Each vessel is painted with the Eight Buddhist Emblems over a lime green background—a color perhaps inspired by enameled metalwork introduced to China from Europe.
Find this altar set in Gallery 134.
Yellow and underglaze-blue dishes of this type are among the most treasured Ming dynasty porcelains in China; they are particularly rare, making this example, covered in traditional motifs, an exquisite acquisition for the Art Institute.
Find this dish in Gallery 134.
Gorham was the first major American silver company to introduce Japanese-inspired designs to their product line, with this particular vessel featuring interpretations of Asian motifs, likely drawn from print sources: giant carp and a turtle thrash in violent waters, suggesting the movement of the sea.
Find this tureen in Gallery 171.
Sebastiano’s depiction of Christ carrying the cross has dramatic visual impact in the expressions of the figures, in the diagonals lines created by the cross, and the luminous background. This work is a significant addition to the museum’s holdings of central Italian paintings.
Find this painting in Gallery 205.